"Garold (Gary) L. Johnson" wrote:
> I went through inability to reason, lack of scientific knowledge,
> evil people, evil ideas, graft, the corruption of power, and
> several others searching for the nature of the difficulty.
> ... the question I am working on now boils down to "how does it
> happen that a group can make decisions that are worse than the
> decisions that would be made by nearly anyone in the group?"
There is a group decision-making experiment that should prove
It's where you put several people in a room and give them a
You're marooned in a desert. You have a compass, a life raft,
a bottle of water, salt tablets, a flare, etc. What do you
The people who run the experiments monitor the process to
see how group decisions are reached. Sometimes a strong
personality takes over and creates an autocracy. Sometimes
its a democratic process. Basically every kind of government
we know gets represented at one time or another, by some
The lesson that was most intriguing for me was relayed by
a friend who had either taken part, or monitored, or read
about the experiments (I don't know which). The moral of
the story, apparently, was this:
The groups that had the best chance of survival all
had one thing in common. It wasn't the groups organization
that predicted success, but rather this: They excelled
at IDENTIFYING THE INDIVIDUAL WITH THE MOST RELEVANT
If they needed to tie a knot in a rope, they found among
themselves the person best qualified to do it. If they
needed to decide whether to take the salt tablets (they
shouldn't), they were able to identify the person with
the most useful knowledge on the subject, and follow his
or her advice.
This principle is reflected in two of my dictims for a
Ratings make it possible for the most useful information
to "float to the top". Maleability makes it possible to
change one's rating, as one becomes convinced by subsequent
I recall arguing for one point of view in a philosophy
class for the duration of the class. I even spent one
class lecturing for that point of view. The night before
the finals, I actually read the papers. The first one
argued persuasively for my point of view. The next two
papers took that perspective, point by point, and
destructed it utterly. I was overwhelmingly convinced.
(And since it was all fresh on my mind, I was able to
quote paragraphs from my memory on the final.)
The point, really, is that the all the arguing I did for
one point of view really turned in me into an expert on
why that view was wrong. But up until my epiphany, I
could never be argued out of it.
Imagine a similar result in a group decision-making
scenario. 5 out of 6 people agree that X is right.
#6 argues persuasively that it isn't and convinces one
other. Together they convince a 3rd. Eventually, the
thing snowballs, and everyone agrees.
Or perhaps #6 has the information, but it is #2 who
excels at spotting people with authoritative info,
and others listen to #6 because #2 says that #6 is
However it works, the end result is the product of
ratings and maleability.
One further observation on the subject of maleability
is that, from the standpoint of *using* the information,
it is the *result* that is important. All of the
arguments that led to the result become background.
So, where the initial series of arguments is a
hierarchy that proceeds from an initial question down
through a series of options, with relevant arguments,
the product of all that is an inverted hierarchy that
has the ANSWER at the root.
Under the "answer" comes "what questions does this
answer respond to" (which ties together those elegant
options that satisfy more than one criteria). Under
each question comes, "what other alternatives are
possible" (which keeps track of options that may be
of greater use in other circumstances).
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Wed Aug 29 2001 - 16:11:02 PDT